Progressive tense

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The progressive tenses (also called continuous tenses) in Spanish indicate explicit duration: that is, they indicate that the action was in progress at the time of reference.

The English progressive tenses typically are used in the same way. However, in some cases the English progressive tenses are used to state an intended future action rather than a current action: for example: "I'm leaving Friday morning on the 10am flight."

The Spanish progressive tenses cannot show intention in this manner: the equivalent sentence in Spanish must use a non-progressive tense: "Salgo el viernes en el vuelo de las diez de la mañana".

Just as in English, all of the simple verb forms have progressive counterparts. The progressive form that corresponds to a simple verb form is constructed from the corresponding simple form of the verb estar followed by the present participle (the -ndo form) of the main verb.

Progressive tenses
Simple tenseExampleProgressive tenseExampleTranslation
infinitivehablarprogressive infinitiveestar hablandoto be speaking
past participlehabladopast progressive participleestado hablandobeen speaking
present participlehablandopresent progressive participleestando hablandobeing speaking
present indicativehablapresent progressiveestá hablandoHe/She is speaking / You are speaking
imperfecthablabaimperfect progressiveestaba hablandoHe/She was/would be speaking / You were/would be speaking
preterithablópreterit progressiveestuvo hablandoHe/She was speaking /You were speaking
futurehablaráfuture progressiveestará hablandoHe/She/You will be speaking
conditionalhablaríaconditional progressiveestaría hablandoHe/She/You would have been speaking
present subjunctivehablepresent subjunctive progressiveesté hablandoHe/She is/be speaking / You are/be speaking
past subjunctivehablara/hablasepast subjunctive progressiveestuviera/estuviese hablandoHe/She was/were speaking / You were speaking

Similarly, all of the compound verb forms have progressive counterparts. The compound progressive form of a compound verb is constructed by replacing the past participle of the main verb with the corresponding progressive past participle.

Progressive perfect tenses
Perfect tenseExampleProgressive perfect tenseExampleTranslation
infinitive perfecthaber habladoinfinitive perfect progressivehaber estado hablandoto have been speaking
past perfect participlehabido habladopast perfect progressive participlehabido estado hablandohad been speaking
present perfect participlehabiendo hablanopresent perfect progressive participlehabiendo estado hablandohaving been speaking
present perfectha habladopresent perfect progressiveha estado hablandoHe/She has been speaking / You have been speaking
pluperfecthabía habladopluperfect progressivehabía estado hablandoHe/She had been speaking / You had been speaking
past anterior *hubo habladopast anterior progressive *hubo estado hablandoHe/She had been speaking /You had been speaking
future perfecthabrá habladofuture perfect progressivehabrá estado hablandoHe/She/You will have been speaking
conditional perfecthabría habladoconditional perfect progressivehabría estado hablandoHe/She/You would have been speaking
present perfect subjunctivehaya habladopresent perfect subjunctive progressivehaya estado hablandoHe/She has/have been speaking / You have been speaking
pluperfect subjunctivehubiera/hubiese habladopluperfect subjunctive progressivehubiera/hubuese estado hablandoHe/She had been speaking / You had been speaking

Just as the past anterior (hubo hablado) is rarely used except in literary contexts, the past anterior progressive (hubo estado hablando) also is rarely used except in literary contexts.